SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Geneva group launches referendum to give foreigners right to vote

An advocacy group hopes to give foreigners in Geneva, who make up around 40 percent of the population, the right to vote in the canton.

The United Nations building in Geneva. Around 40 percent of the canton's residents are foreign. Image: Mathias PR Reding on Unsplash
The United Nations building in Geneva. Around 40 percent of the canton's residents are foreign. Image: Mathias PR Reding on Unsplash

A group of left-wing organisations and trade unions have launched a constitutional initiative which aims to extend the political rights of foreigners at a cantonal level. 

The initiative, which was launched on Thursday, is called “A life here, a voice here… Let us strengthen our democracy”. They have until early August to collect the necessary 8,157 signatures.

About 40 percent of Geneva’s population is made up of foreign nationals, the highest proportion of any canton in Switzerland. 

While they have a right to vote on municipal issues, they have no political rights at the cantonal level.

The initiative would allow Geneva’s foreign residents to vote on cantonal issues, including referenda, however they would still be restricted from taking part in federal votes. 

Currently, only Neuchâtel and Jura grant the right to vote to foreigners on cantonal issues, while many others allow foreigners to vote in municipal elections. 

The initiative wants to include foreigners in the Geneva political process. 

“(They can’t vote) [h]owever, they finance these public policies through their work and their taxes and contribute directly to the social, cultural and economic life of the canton.”

Will foreigners get the right to vote at a federal level? 

One in four residents of Switzerland are unable to vote due to not being Swiss citizens, which would make them a sizeable voter block. 

READ MORE: Will foreigners in Switzerland finally earn the right to vote in federal elections?

Over the years, several efforts to grant restricted or unrestricted voting rights to foreigners have failed. 

In early 2022, Switzerland’s Greens had lodged a proposal to provide foreigners resident in Switzerland for five years with rights to vote and to be elected at a federal level. 

Despite support from Switzerland’s Social Democrats, the measure was rejected by 17 votes to 8 in the SPK-N. 

Those opposed to the measure said no change was necessary, with anyone wanting to gain voting rights free to apply for naturalisation, Swiss news outlet Watson reports. 

According to procedure of the State Political Commission, Switzerland’s National Council will now decide on the matter, however prospects of success are limited due to the rejection. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

FAMILY

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

These days, it’s not just celebrities who seem to have a penchant for ruining their child’s life by bestowing him or her with an odd moniker. In Switzerland however, there are several rules about what you can - and cannot - name your child.

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

Whether its hanging out your washing on a Sunday or flushing your toilet after 10pm at night, Switzerland has several rules which can be surprising to foreigners. 

One such example is what you are allowed to name your kids.  

While from time to time, parents’ failed attempt to give their child a unique name might make the news, there are in fact an extensive variety of rules about which names can actually be chosen in Switzerland.

Sticklers for the law as they are, the Swiss have several rules controlling what baby names can be given. 

No names which will damage a child’s well-being

Although this appears incredibly difficult to define, there are several actual examples which have been rejected for breaching the well-being rule. 

In considering this, Swiss authorities will look at whether “the child will be exposed to ridicule because of its name.”

This includes ‘Grandma’, ‘Rose Heart’, ‘Prince Valiant’ and ‘Puhbert’. 

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

They specifically prohibit giving your kid a name which will damage his or her “well-being”. Names aren’t allowed to be offensive either. 

Twins

Twins must not have names that are too similar to each other. 

The names must not be either spelt or pronounced in the same way. 

Swiss media gives the example of calling two boys “Philip” and “Philipe”. 

No villain names

Switzerland – or at least large parts of it – remain relatively religious, which is probably why choosing a bible villain name for your child is verboten. 

Newspaper Telebasel reports that the name Judas has already been rejected by Swiss registry offices – and will likely be rejected again. Satan, Cain and Lucifer are also banned. 

Boys are boys, girls are girls

Ever the traditionalists, Switzerland has tight gender rules for naming children. 

Specifically, a name must clearly indicate a person’s gender. 

Girls cannot be given a boy’s name and vice versa. 

If a name does not clearly indicate the person’s gender, then the child must be given a hyphenated double name or a second name to make this clear. 

Numbers or letters

In 2017, a Swiss court said ‘J’ was not appropriate as a middle name. 

The court held that allowing ‘J’ would be similar to letting people have a name made up of numbers – although ‘Jay’ a la Homer ‘Jay’ Simpson would presumably be fine. 

No place names

While the world might be debating how to cater to non-binary people who want to be identified as ‘their’, identifying as ‘there’ is a big no go in Switzerland. 

Place names for people are forbidden in Switzerland. 

This may not be interpreted incredibly strictly – Dakota Fanning and Brooklyn Beckham will be OK for now – but if you want to name your little boy ‘Matterhorn’ you may come across some resistance. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

No product names either

No matter how much you love a particular product, you will be prevented from honouring the brand by naming your child after it. 

That means Ovaltine, Rivella, Chanel or Ferrari are off the table. 

You’re also banned from naming your child after a plant or after an animal. 

What about foreign names? 

One major question – particularly among Local readers – is whether foreign names are banned. 

The main question is whether the name appears in the ‘Internationalen Handbuch der Vornamen’ – the International Handbook of First Names. 

This book – which does not appear to exist in English – expressly lists acceptable first names. 

If it appears in the book, it’s OK with Swiss authorities. 

Which names have actually been banned in Switzerland? 

Suissebook has listed several baby names which have been banned in Switzerland for breaking at least one of the rules listed above. 

In addition to all of those mentioned so far in this article, it includes Bierstubl (place name), Troublemaker (well-being), Mercedes (brand name) and Sputnik (not sure if that is a place or a thing, but either way it’s banned).

SHOW COMMENTS